That’s art; isn’t it?!

It really is looking like fall on Morter Farm in the last few days!  The volunteer pumpkin vines are dying off and leaving the most amazing bounty of pumpkins we’ve had in recent years!  Notice I said, “volunteer.”  That’s because the pumpkins we planted only produced two small white “ghost” pumpkins.  The remainders pictured are the hardy gypsies that appeared to rise from the mist of the compost pile.  What a happy surprise that was! 

So, I took this as a sign.  Time to tie up corn stalks to the gateposts and scatter these pumpkin gifts around them . . . even though temperatures are still in the 80s.  Ugh!  However, with the approach of Hurricane Sally, my fingers are crossed that the 80s will turn into 70s, and the evenings be true fall material.

Also, in celebration of my official proclamation that “It’s fall now,” I got out my favorite fall book, Autumn – From the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch.  

Susan’s books are unique because they aren’t typeset in the traditional sense. Instead, every letter, every word, even the index is hand lettered.  Every page is a work of art in watercolor.  And, if that were the end of it, that alone would be amazing.  But, there’s more!  She has the most amazing recipes, holiday suggestions, poetry, quotes and stories to share.  

The layout of the pages, the artistry, the lettering combined with the prose, all make up a complete package, which is so much more than just a sum of the parts.  

Of course, that’s art, isn’t it?

Reading Dinosaurs

I have a saying on my letter board at home to celebrate back-to-school, which reads, “Dinosaurs didn’t read.  Now they’re extinct.  Coincidence?”  I placed these letters on the board to be funny and to be a little serious, too.  Reading is important.  Reading from points of view outside of your own is what makes it important.  If you only read books by authors who you can completely relate to on every level, you might be entertained, but you won’t learn anything. 

Oh, usually reading is for our entertainment though, right?  And, even then, hopefully you learn something – a point of view from a character you never considered before, a situation you hadn’t imagined before.  Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter really.  Fiction is just made-up circumstances about made-up characters, but all come from the mind of the author, and therefore their experiences with life and people.

I find that the most memorable books I read are the ones about topics I don’t know much of anything about or that are written by people who live very different lives from my own.  These are the books I learn something from.  Like having a great teacher in school – they stand out for you because they move you toward a higher version of yourself.  They teach you something.

And, here’s the most interesting part of reading books, either with characters vastly different from you or by an author who has had a vastly different life experience than you have:  at some level, you will be able to relate.  And right there is where the magic happens.  This is truly the tie that binds.

That’s how it was for me with the book, Untamed by Glennon Doyle.  Here is an author with a very different life experience from me.  But, on some very important levels, I found our common ground.  And because of that, I could better respect her point of view on the things I see a bit differently.  It’s a “live and let live” thing, based on respect for individual perspective. And that, to me, can be taught effectively through reading.

Who knows?  Maybe dinosaurs did read!  If so, I suspect they only read books about themselves. Maybe if they’d branched out a bit in the science perspective? LOL! We’ll never know for sure.

For Me, Fall Begins September 1st!

Oh, it’s happening!  I’ve made the official proclamation in my house that fall begins on September 1st this year.  Usually I wait until the temperatures are lower, fall decor is everywhere, or at least until after the first Razorback football game.  But this year?  I’m taking charge.  I need a change.  And so, I’m putting Harvest Blend essential oil in my diffuser, drawing a pumpkin on the chalkboard, and getting the show on the road.  It all started when my Country Living magazine arrived in the mail this weekend, and I became somewhat giddy at the sight of pumpkins and “Creativity” splashed across the cover.

Country Living Cover

And, like a bear coming out of hibernation, I saw the light . . . my answer.  Fall is my absolute favorite season, and since it’s almost here, why not just hurry it along a bit!  So, to get up-to-speed, let’s start our fall education, shall we?  Perfect for back-to-school I think!  How about a little game of “Did you know . . .” to get the party started!

  1. Did you know that it takes 36 apples on average to create a gallon of cider?
  2. Did you know that 90% of pumpkins grown in the US are raised within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Illinois?
  3. Did you know that the tradition of carving pumpkins originated in Ireland? The Irish would carve jack-o-lanterns out of turnips to scare evil spirits during the Celtic holiday, Samhain, the night when spirits of the dead would walk the earth.
  4. Did you know that autumn babies, or those born between September and November, are more likely to live to 100 than those who were born in other times of the year?
  5. Did you know that each fall, the Black-capped Chickadee’s tiny hippocampus enlarges by 30%, which enables it to remember where it collected seeds in different spots in trees and on the ground?
  6. Did you know that while Americans typically use the word “fall,” the British use the word “autumn,” though both terms date from around the 16th Century?  Before these terms, the period was called “harvest.”
  7. Did you know the word “harvest” comes from the Old Norse word “haust,” which means “to gather or pluck”?  As people moved to the cities, “harvest” fell out of use and the city dwellers began to use “fall of the leaf,” which was shortened to “fall.”
  8. Did you know that while heart attacks and car accidents increase after the start of daylight savings time in the spring, that the opposite is true for the end of it in the fall?  Heart attacks and accidents decrease the Monday after daylight savings time ends.
  9. Did you know that a study in the journal Perception noted that men think women are more attractive in the cooler season?
  10. Did you know that according to superstition, catching leaves in autumn brings good luck?  Every leaf caught means a lucky month in the next year.
  11. Did you know that Americans consume about 600 million pounds of Hershey bars, lollipops, Milk Duds, Twizzlers and Clark bars as Halloween candy?
  12. AND, did you know that each autumn, monarch butterflies migrate from the US to Mexico and some parts of Southern California?  They fly at speeds ranging between 12 and 25 miles per hour.  Monarch butterflies are the only insect that migrates to a warmer climate which is 2500 miles away.

 

You’re Ready Right NOW!

Steal Like An Artist

I was perusing the Barnes & Noble website some months back, (a dangerous activity for me for sure!) when  I came upon a selection of books for writers and creatives.  And right then and there, I plummeted  down the rabbit hole!  I can certainly lose myself for a good long time reading titles, descriptions, reviews and the “those who purchased this also purchased this” recommendations.  In the end, of course, I ordered MORE books!

Oh, I love SO much when my order comes in the mail!  It reminds me of when, as a kid, I used to get to order books from the Scholastic something or other at school.  I’d bring home the little catalog and I’d get to pick a few books.  When they arrived, I was SO excited.  Very similar to now when my Barnes & Noble order is on my porch when I get home from work!

So, one of the books I got is called Steal Like An Artist – 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon.  This little book is full of gems for the creative or wannabe creative.  On the list of the 10 Things, #2 is: Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.  This really got my attention.  I have waited on things.  True confessions.  I have tried for years to decide who I am.  Am I a writer?  Am I an artist?  Am I a crafter?  Am I a graphic designer?  Am I a farmer?  The answer?  YES!  I’m all of those.  The revelation from this tome?  I don’t have to wait to find out who I am.  I just have to DO.

Here’s a little excerpt from this book.  Let me remind you, this doesn’t just apply to artists, writers, creative sorts.  This applies to e v e r y o n e.  Making and Doing are one in the same if you think about creating your life – however that looks.  So here’s what Austin writes:

If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started “being creative,” well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things.  In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.

You might be scared to start.  That’s natural.  There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people.  It’s called “impostor syndrome.”  The clinical definition is a “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.”  It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.

Guess what:  None of us do.  Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth:  They don’t know where the good stuff comes from.  They just show up to do their thing.  Every day.

I’m always moved by ways people find out who they are.  I like this.  A lot.

Flies hate mint! Who knew?!

Mint plant

No matter how clean you keep animal enclosures, there are always flies around in the summer months. I greatly dislike flies around my fur babies; I like chemical fly repellents even less!  So I am constantly looking for natural ways to keep flies at bay.

I stumbled on to an idea about using sprigs of fresh mint and lavender, twist-tied to the bars of the cage.  We have mint growing, and lavender growing, so I got right on this idea.  And, you know what?  It works!!  I really think flies don’t like mint!  And, it turns out, I REALLY do!  The smell of the fresh mint and lavender, when smooshed slightly together with the twist tie, is wonderful!

Pixie Ruth and Mint

When these sprigs dry out, I put them up on top of the cage and tie fresh ones on.  The bunnies really seem to like them, too!  Little Pixie Ruth likes them a bit too much, and eats them if I don’t keep them out of her reach.  They are perfectly fine for her to eat, but doesn’t do “fly duty” in her little stomach!

Peppermint Spray

So, what if you don’t grow lots of mint?  It turns out that if you put about 15 drops of peppermint essential oil in a small spray bottle of purified water and spritz it on and around the cage each day – that works really well, too.  Be careful not to spray it directly on the bunnies (you don’t want to get it in their eyes), just on the cage.

Coco and Izzy with mintSO excited to be hosting Animal B.E.S.T. this weekend at Morter Farm.  Along with teaching the amazing Animal B.E.S.T. procedure for small and large animals, we will have a whole presentation about using essential oils in animal care.  You can find out more about Animal B.E.S.T. at http://www.morter.com.

I fell in love with a house yesterday!

It's Calling Me picI fell in love with a house yesterday. Well I say yesterday, but you know, I fell in love with that house years ago. After all, I drive by it multiple times a week. It’s right smack in downtown Rogers – right by the railroad tracks. It’s a 2-story beauty from 1885, and I’m in love. It’s for sale and has been for sale for about a year now. For some reason, yesterday, I paid attention and started the wheels churning about what I could do with that house. The trigger was when I found myself saying to Ted as we were driving by it, “If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d buy that house and fix it up and open the first bed and breakfast in downtown Rogers! What?!   Where did THAT come from?!

 

But I’m telling you, as soon as I said those words, my whole word changed. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. And so, I talked Ted into taking a walk around the property at lunch yesterday. It’s empty, so I wasn’t worried about bothering anyone. I just wanted to look in the windows. So, in typical Ted fashion, he walked right up to the front door and tried the knob. I’m sure you know what happened next. That door opened right up. Of course it did!

 

And then my eyes started watering, and they are watering now as I write this. My eyes water when my heart is wide open – when God is talking to me. And that, my friends, would be a mic-drop moment normally, but I have more to tell you.

 

Inside that house was so much potential. I could almost see it as it was 132 years ago. There was even an old dusty piano sitting alone in the front parlor and crystal chandeliers hanging in almost every room. There was a creepy basement, layers upon peeling layers of wallpapers, ship lap, and a beautiful banister winding up to the second floor. I couldn’t stop talking about everything we could DO with this house!

 

When I got back to the office, I looked up all of the historical information about the house. So, so, so, cool! And, I started fretting about the “how” of it all. We might not be in a financial situation to buy an old house in addition to the one we live in right now. That’s why the lottery comment earlier. However, I just feel this could happen. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, I just know it could happen. I KNOW it! For some reason I am called to this house. It’s already my house in my mind! I even locked the front door when we left, because it absolutely must have been an oversight to leave that house unlocked! Someone could vandalize it after all!

 

And, what do you suppose is in the attic? Oh my goodness! I’m calling my dad; I need an investor! Maybe he’d be game for this adventure!

Garden 2017 Begins!

Garden 2017 2I’m so ready for Spring, even though I didn’t get my snow again this winter.  Oh, I know!  Everyone else got GOBS of snow, and it missed us every time!  So today, we put that all behind us and start preparing GARDEN 2017 at Morter Farm.  Usually we wait until St. Patrick’s Day to put in the potatoes, but not this year!

Garden 2017We’ve been watching videos on YouTube, learning new ways to plant for bigger yields and LESS WEEDS!  Also, the no-till method of gardening.  So, Farmer Ted knifed in some gypsum and then spread manure across the top of the first half and raked it smooth.  He’ll do the same with the other half this weekend.

Garden 2017 3Izabella (the Labrador) absolutely LOVES helping with any project.  She also loves potatoes, and steals them regularly from the pantry.  She found the “mother load” here in the garden, and before I realized it we had some blank spots in the rows!   Oh well, perfection in a garden is a unicorn anyway!

How do I love thee . . .

onmorterfarmmylocketEveryone who knows me knows how much I LOVE history.  And, nothing says romance more than the Victorian era of history. It was a time of love for innovation, craftsmanship, and the arts. Arguably, one of the most respected poets of the Victorian era was Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her works are just full of tender and delicate – but also strong and deep – thought. Apparently she drew from her own sufferings – the untimely death of her brother, her life-long problem with illness, and her estrangement from her father made her the champion of the suffering and oppressed wherever she found them. So you have a little perspective in relation to time, she lived from 1806 to 1861. Her most famous work is Sonnets from the Portuguese, which is a collection of love sonnets. It is thought that the title was meant to shroud some of the personal nature of the poems by implying they were a translation of an older work– but they were really a thinly disguised history of her own love story with poet Robert Browning.

I have a heart-shaped, silver locket, which Ted bought for me from an antique store in England some years ago, and it has the most famous line from this sonnet engraved on the back.  On the inside of the locket is a picture of a man wearing a military uniform, and it looks like it was taken around 1900 or so.  On the opposite side of the locket from the picture is a lock of his hair.

Now let me just tell you, the energy of love in this locket has transcended the years. When I wear it, it becomes so warm, you could use it to warm your hands. I know that sounds weird, and it is.

So today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll put a little romance into your heart by remembering the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Preparing for V-Day!

onmorterfarmI fondly remember when Valentine’s Day meant we decorated a brown lunch sack with crepe paper squares pressed over the head of a pencil and glued in clusters to form hearts or words or whatever.  We’d hang our amazing creations on the fronts of our little desks and wait for everyone in the classroom to go around and deposit their Valentines into the bags.  What fun!  So also back in my day, the Valentine’s looked like the picture above. I ordered a whole slew of these vintage gems on eBay some time ago, and they are so great to photograph all together like this!

I’ve never stopped loving receiving Valentines.  So, I’ve taken to making my own each year and sending them to my parents, the kids, grandkids and other special people in my life. This year, I’ve been really into watercolors, so that’s how I created my cards.

onmorterfarm2 Here’s a sample of one of the designs.  I did four different ones and then decorated the envelopes, too.  Because . . . who doesn’t want to see a very special envelope decorated and addressed just for them, sitting inside their mailbox?!

onmorterfarm3And then of course I bought LOVE stamps, too.  Who wants a flag stamp on their Valentine?

I have found the real joy in Valentine’s Day is showing your peeps what they mean to you by taking the time to create something special for them.  And that’s what’s been going on in my art loft at Morter Farm!  Do creative today!

Contemplating Happiness

contemplating-happiness

I’ve been wondering a lot lately about what separates happy people from unhappy people. And, I don’t think it’s the bad things happening to unhappy people that makes them unhappy. Likewise, I don’t think it’s the good things happening to happy people that makes them happy.

And, maybe you know this already – I probably did – but I am really taking time to think about it lately. Unhappy people seem to constantly look for things to support their unhappiness. And let me tell you; there is an unlimited amount of things you can look back on and say this should not have happened if you want to continue to be unhappy. It’s all in how you choose to see your life experiences. Forgive your past and save your life. So true!  Because when you believe that everything happens for you instead of to you, in order to bring you to a higher understanding of your purpose in life, then you ultimately can’t be unhappy with anything that has happened!

Now, some things are more difficult to deal with than others for sure. The loss of a child, for instance, is very hard to come to terms with. Someone who we have known since she was a little girl recently lost her 2 ½ year-old son when he drowned in their pool. Horrific for sure.   Unimaginable. And, after a time of grief has passed, if she is a happy person she will find a way – by faith – to be happy again. She can use her experience to contribute to the universal energy in a positive way, or she can choose to be unhappy for the rest of her life. She can choose.

I used to think there was something wrong with me that I could muster up happiness even in what should’ve been my darkest times. But you know? I love being happy! I seek out ways to be happy. And, the older I get the more I realize I can’t change people who are unhappy – I can’t make them happy no matter how much I want that for them!  I then choose to be around them if I feel I won’t be letting go of my own happiness in order to do it. And, I don’t feel guilty about that choice – well most of the time I don’t! I am human and sometimes I have to talk with myself a bit! If something keeps coming to my mind and I’m feeling guilty because I’m not doing what is normally socially acceptable – what I quote “should” be doing. I stop and take a look at how doing this thing would affect my happiness. Now, I haven’t always done this! This has come with age and experience. I look at the situation and analyze it for not if I “should” do something, but if it’s going to make me feel happy to do it.  If it’s not going to make me feel happy, then I make the choice to say “enough now” and go on with my life.

Because at the end, if you were asked, “Did you love your life?” You have to be able to answer “Yes!” not “Yes, but . . . ” or “No, because . . . ” The only thing that works for me is Yes! I love my life!